Cross-selling to brokerage clients has pushed Morgan Stanley’s brokerage unit to record revenues in the third quarter, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The company’s wealth management unit posted $3.88 billion in third-quarter revenue, a 6.6% increase from the year prior, according to the paper.

While transaction fees were up, the brokerage had a 2% drop in asset management fees, to $2.13 billion for the quarter, the Journal writes. But the drop in asset management fees was more than offset by net interest, which surged to $884 million — an 18% increase compared to the year prior, according to the paper. Client loans grew 15% compared to the previous year, reaching $70 billion as of September 30, while deposits grew 7% year-over-year to $149 billion, the Journal writes.

Morgan Stanley’s recent push to build up its wealth unit’s banking business has focused on both clients and brokers, according to the paper. In exchange for moving more assets into their brokerage accounts, clients were given rebates on fees or free identity-theft protection services, the Journal writes. Brokers, meanwhile, could get bonuses of up to $202,500 for convincing clients to take out securities-backed loans and other debt, the paper writes.

But Morgan Stanley’s cross-selling tactics are now in the crosshairs of regulators. Earlier in October, Massachusetts’ top securities cop accused the company’s brokers of running unauthorized sales contests selling securities-backed loans and said top brass at the brokerage failed to shut the contest down, as reported previously.


In a call with analysts, Morgan Stanley Chief Executive James Gorman, when asked about the matter, said the company isn’t going to change its approach, the Journal writes.

Gorman also said that the brokerage will soon outline plans for complying with the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, which requires brokers to put clients’ interests first, the Journal writes.

While he didn’t give details, Gorman stressed that the company will give clients a choice, Reuters writes. This may have been intended to contrast with the strategy adopted by rival Bank of America, according to the newswire.

Earlier this month, the BofA’s wealth unit, Merrill Lynch, announced that it will no longer let customers open commission-based retirement accounts, as reported previously. The thinking behind the move was that limiting retirement account holders to fee-only relationships would reduce potential conflicts of interest among Merrill Lynch brokers. But Gorman said letting Morgan Stanley clients decide between the two wouldn’t present compliance problems, Reuters writes.

“I don’t think that giving clients choice heightens one’s legal exposure and, in fact, that just seems a little counterintuitive,” he said, according to the newswire.